Hughes family ties permeate Bridge of Lions 5K

Contributed/Jim Hughes James Hughes, Jr., Will Hughes and Jim Hughes stand at the finish line of the 2016 Bridge of Lions 5K. Jim, 84, will be at the starting line for the 33rd annual race on Saturday morning.

Jim Hughes joked that he finished 17th in his last attempt at the Bridge of Lions 5K.


The 84-year-old St. Augustine resident pauses long enough for one to wonder how it was possible then explains that’s how far he was from the back of the pack.

Saturday morning, when the gun goes off in the 33rd Bridge of Lions 5K, Hughes will be at the starting line with his sons, Jim Jr. and Kevin as well as grandson Will.

Hughes, his namesake and grandson all ran in last year’s race. The three of them crossed the finish line together in 1 hour, 4 minutes, 39 and then went to Village Inn to eat breakfast.

“It’s such a pleasure to be running downtown,” Hughes Sr. said. “It’s a great area, it’s a tourist destination. Running over the bay front and the bridge, you can’t beat that for scenery. It starts at the fort, which is interesting.”

The Hugheses are among the more than 1,100 runners who are currently registered. Organizers anticipate as many as 1,400 runners of all ages will be beneath the shadows of the Castillo de San Marcos on Saturday morning.

Hughes was born on Nov. 11, 14 years after The Armistice was signed. He began running in the Bridge of Lions shortly after moving to St. Augustine in 2003. He keeps the T-shirt and race bib from every race.

Hughes Sr. has been a runner for decades. Have may have delayed his finishing times, but not denied him the thrill that comes from racing. When he was in his 40s, he attended a business conference in Texas, saw one of his colleagues wake up in the morning and go for a run and became hooked.

“I saw him get up in the morning and I said ‘What is this?,’” Hughes Sr. said. “He gave me a few books to read and I got started. I used to run until the heart condition and I went to fast walking.”

His cardiologist told him to continue the exercise and that is what he will do. It’s a bonus that his sons will be joining him.

Jim Jr. lives in Jacksonville, while younger son, Kevin will be flying in from Walnut Creek, California, on Friday night. In all, seven members of the Hughes family have run in the Bridge of Lions over the years.

“The opportunity for me to spend another two hours with my father,” Jim Jr. said is what separates the Bridge of Lions from other races he has run. “Having my son with us last year was a real treat. That made it worthwhile.”

The 2016 race was Will Hughes’ first time running in the Bridge of Lions. Hughes Jr. has run a half dozen times and has fond memories of the race — not solely because of the familial bonds, but because he set his personal record in the race.

Not too many can say they have set their personal record at the Bridge of Lions. With the race traditionally held in July — a month notorious for its humidity — conditions are far from ideal for extremely fast times.

That may explain why each of the last three overall winners has been a cross country running training for the upcoming season. Last year’s winner, Ian Yates, will be competing again. Yates, 18, will be on the cross country team at Division II Anderson University in the fall.

Whether one is 5 or turning 85, the Bridge of Lions 5K features an inviting environment and become a summertime staple in St. Augustine.

“It’s so much fun being around people,” Hughes Jr. said. “Your adrenaline kicks in. No one is embarrassed (by their time), it’s not the New York Marathon. You have different levels of fitness and racing abilities. It’s really a great atmosphere for someone who has never done it. It’s good for anyone. You can (even) walk it.”

Recent overall winners

2016: Ian Yates, 17:37

2015: Jeremy Bryan, 16:10

2014: Gavin Gresham, 17:26

2013: Marc Akbar, 16:10

2012: Marc Akbar, 16:24

2011: Joe Matuszczak, 17:22

Bridge of Lions 5K

Where: Castillo de San Marcos

When: Saturday, 7:30 a.m.

On-site registration will be available, beginning at 6 a.m.

Race packets will be available for pickup from The Record today from noon to 6 p.m.